Last few weeks the state of Maharashtra and the nation witnessed some unforeseen political developments and power struggle. An unprecedented turn of events for the state known for a strong political culture and some robust contribution to the Indian democracy. As I write this Shivaji Park, a stone throw’s away from my house, is getting ready for the oath taking ceremony of the next chief minister Uddhav Thackrey, the Shiv Sena supremo and the heir.
Shiv Sena and BJP alliance had an unceremonious fallout after contesting elections together for 30 years. Observing this political drama, I realized in some way I have witnessed this change closer home for the last three decades.
In the mid-1980s a little girl would see Shiv Sena shakha and its workers as a call away for help – ambulance service, blood donations, etc. Growing up in Dadar, cradle of Shive Sena’s birth, was not a surprise to see Balasaheb Thackrey’s car (there were no convoys then) passing through some wadi for corner meetings. Public meetings were not glamorous, even during election time. The only big meeting was the Dasara rally which would fill Shivaji Park with saffron flags. Once the Shiv Sena – BJP friendship became stronger Lotus symbol accompanied Bow & Arrow on the posters and pamphlets.
This teenager was then a by-stander to another significant political development. In the pre-TV and internet era locals in Dadar gathered outside counting centers to know the election results. EVM machines had not made their debut yet. The josh was high in Dadar during 1995 Assembly Elections. Accompanying her father to Shiv Sena Bhavan on the counting day, she saw a huge crowd errupt with joy as one particular election result was declared – Bala Nandgaonkar had defeated Chagan Bhujbal in Mazgaon. As Shiv Sena – BJP alliance inched closer to the government formation, Gokhale Road leading to Shiv Sena Bhavan was full of people, Shiv Sainiks celebrating on every naka. The culmination was the oath taking ceremony at Shivaji Park. With the downing sun, Manohar Joshi, senior party leader and resident of Dadar, became the first Shiv Sena Chief Minister.
In next few years another wave swept Dadar. Like the rest of Maharashtra, this Sena stronghold was torn between the big split – Uddhav & Raj Thackrey. Through her window she would observe a symbolic struggle. On important occassions the statue of Prabodhankar Thackrey – a social reformer and Balasaheb’s father would be surrounded by two flags with different symbols – Bow & Arrow and Railway Engine. Festival celebrations also saw this impact. Krishna Kunj, in a sleepy lane near Shivaji Park, became popular for its resident – Raj Thackrey. Dadar supported Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, elected its MLA and backed corporators in the BMC elections.
Last decade was another transformation. Now a working woman with interest in political science and developments, the change was palpable. National political environment was not the same – rising power and clout of BJP was visible in the neighbourhood. While people were pro-development, there was some disillusionment and an underlying soft-corner for Shiv Sena.
Amid the political wrestling and the game of Kabaddi, it remains to be seen how will Thackrey Sarkar be different, will Dadar yet again be witness to a new Shiv Sena? This time it is the other Thackreys – Uddhav and Aditya.